Friday, January 13, 2012

Infant Morality, Afterlife in Qumran and Philo, Philo's Trinity

For my write-up today on Justification and Variegated Nomism, Volume 1: The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, I have three items:

1. On page 376, David Hay discusses Philo's view on the moral propensity of infants and children:

"Philo's theory of human development in stages views the child as 'pure wax,' inexperienced in both good and evil. Because of the early development of the passions and defects of education, however, a child turns to evil before it is attracted to virtue under the guidance of reason."

This is somewhat like the Christian doctrine of original sin, but not entirely. The Christian doctrine of original sin (as I understand it) is that humans are born with a corrupt nature and thus need to be regenerated. For Philo, infants and children indeed have a propensity for evil, since the passions develop early and they lack education. But the solution is for them (according to Philo) to get to the age where they can embrace reason and thus subdue the passions. At the same time, Philo does not rule out a role for divine grace in helping people to arrive at virtue.

2. I read some about Second Temple Jewish beliefs regarding the afterlife. On page 395, Marcus Bockmuehl says that, except for 4Q385 and 4Q521, there is uncertainty about the extent to which the Qumran community "believed in a general resurrection", and yet "the Community clearly did affirm a belief in some form of heavenly life after death." On page 388, Bockmuehl quotes 1QS 4:7ff., which forecasts for the righteous "healing and great peace in a long life, multiplication of progeny together with all everlasting blessings, endless joy in everlasting life, and a crown of glory together with a resplendent attire in eternal light" (the words of 1QS 4:7ff.). Those who succumb to the spirit of falsehood, by contrast, will "experience shame and afflictions, eternal destruction by God's wrath, and eternal annihilation 'in the fire of darkness'" (Bockmuehl's words), and Bockmuehl cites 1QS 4:12-13; 4Q280 2:4-5; and 4Q286 7.ii.5-11. I'm curious as to how Qumran regarded eternal destruction and annihilation. Is this annihilationism or eternal torment?

On page 371, David Hay refers to Philo's Praem. 152, in which Philo asserts that a proselyte to Judaism will have a place in heaven firmly fixed, whereas "the noble born who has falsified the sterling of his high lineage" (whom Hay understands to be Jews who have apostasized) will go down into Tarturus and "profound darkness".

3. Many Christians contend that the three angels (if you will) in Genesis 18 are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, on page 377, Hay states that Philo had a similar, albeit different, understanding. For Philo, the three beings were God "and his two senior Powers, the Power of Punishment and the Power of Mercy" (Hay's words).

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